Submitted to: Technical Report
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2006
Publication Date: March 15, 2006
Citation: Franzluebbers, A.J. 2006. Pasture management strategies for sequestering soil carbon. U.S. Department of Energy. pp.2006. Technical Abstract: Pasturelands account for 51 of the 212 Mha of privately held grazing land in the USA. Tall fescue is the most important cool-season perennial forage for many beef cattle producers in the humid region of the USA. A fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum, infects the majority of tall fescue stands with a mutualistic association. Ergot alkaloids produced by the endophyte have negative impacts on cattle performance. However, there are indications that endophyte infection of tall fescue is a necessary component of productive and persistent pasture ecology. The objectives of this research were to characterize and quantify changes in soil organic carbon and associated soil properties under tall fescue pastures with and without endophyte infection of grass. Pastures with high endophyte infection had greater concentration of soil organic carbon, but lower concentration of biologically active soil carbon than pastures with low endophyte infection. A controlled experiment suggested that endophyte-infected leaf tissue may directly inhibit the activity of soil microorganisms. Carbon forms of soil organic matter were negatively affected and nitrogen forms were positively affected by endophyte addition to soil. The chemical compounds in endophyte-infected tall fescue (ergot alkaloids) that are responsible for animal health disorders were found in soil, suggesting that these chemicals might be persistent in the environment. Scientists will be able to use this information to better understand the ecological impacts of animals grazing tall fescue, and possibly to identify and cultivate other similar associations for improving soil organic matter storage.